The recent surge in Covid-19 in Greece is not linked to the reopening of the country to international visitors in mid-May, Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis said here.
This week, the daily number of confirmed coronavirus cases nationwide surpassed 3,000 for the first time in four months. In June, this figure had dropped below 500 per day, reports Xinhua news agency.
Citing experts, the Greek government has attributed the increase to the highly contagious Delta variant, which finds fertile ground among the unvaccinated.
“The increase in Covid-19 cases in Greece is not related to tourism,” Theoharis on Wednesday stressed at an event dedicated to the future of hotels in Greece, pointing to the results of checks carried out at the country’s borders.
In the first 10 days of July, only 74 positive cases were detected in 105,609 random samples taken at the borders, ports and airports, he said.
Tourists must present a certificate of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19 or a recent negative PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test upon entering Greece.
“It is our duty, the primary obligation, to ourselves, our loved ones, the wider homeland and our foreign guests to get vaccinated. I am afraid that there are many who have not yet realised that this summer for Greek, tourism depends on the fastest possible progress of vaccinations,” the Minister said.
To date, four out of ten people in Greece have been fully vaccinated.
To reach herd immunity, the target is to increase the vaccination rate to at least 70 per cent this summer, Theoharis noted.
“The season remains unpredictable, even in relation to last year’s. We remain optimistic and I believe from now on we will see a different image and numbers for Greek tourism,” Alexandros Vassilikos, president of the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels, said.
In late June, the occupancy rate at hotels that were open stood at 34 per cent, he noted.
Greek officials and entrepreneurs active in the tourism industry hope that this year the country can double the number of visitors and revenues it had last year.
In 2020, some six million tourist arrivals and 4 billion euros ($4.73 billion) in revenues were recorded.
In 2019, Greece had more than 30 million visitors and 18 billion euros in tourism revenues.
The tourism industry is critical for the country, as it accounts for about a fifth of its economy.